Copa América
Lionel Messi and Argentina aiming for 3rd straight major title in Copa América
Copa América

Lionel Messi and Argentina aiming for 3rd straight major title in Copa América

Published Jun. 17, 2024 2:37 p.m. ET

Lionel Messi and Argentina will try to match Spain's feat of three consecutive major titles when the Copa América kicks off Thursday night.

Coming off championships in the 2021 Copa América and the 2022 World Cup, Messi will be four days shy of his 37th birthday when the Albiceleste take the field against Canada at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

"I want to enjoy a couple of more matches being a world champion," Messi said after Argentina beat France on penalty kicks to win the 2022 World Cup final.

He has 10 goals in 10 international appearances since, raising his total to 108 in 182 games for Argentina's national team. He is either tied for second with Ali Daei or one behind, depending on whether a disputed goal by the Iranian is counted, trailing only Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo at 128.


"It is not easy to compete again after winning it all," Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said.

Argentina and Uruguay are tied with 15 Copa titles each, followed by Brazil with nine. No other nation has won more than two.

Brazil features an attack headed by Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo, just off a Champions League title with Real Madrid, and Raphinha. The emerging star is 17-year-old Endrick, who joins Real Madrid this summer.

"If you look at every position in their proposed starting 11, it's probably one of the world's best players," U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said.

Spain is the only nation to win three consecutive major titles: the European Championship in 2008 and 2012 around the 2010 World Cup.

A look at the tournament:

Expanded field

There will be 16 teams, just as in 2016. The U.S., Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica join the 10 South American nations after qualifying from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Back in the USA

Ecuador was to host the tournament under the rotation of CONMEBOL, South American soccer's governing body, but declined. The tournament was then moved to the U.S., which also hosted the special centennial Copa América in 2016 as Chile won on penalty kicks over Argentina at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Eleven NFL stadiums are being used, including eight of the 11 U.S. venues for the 2026 World Cup, plus three smaller MLS homes. The final will be at Miami Gardens, Florida, on July 14, starting five hours after the European Championship final in Berlin.

CONMEBOL says more than 1 million tickets have been sold for the 32 matches. The 2016 tournament drew just under 1.5 million, and the 2019 tournament in Brazil about 850,000. The 2021 Copa was played mostly without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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U.S. team

This will be the biggest test for the U.S. team before the World Cup — the Americans get an automatic berth as co-host along with Mexico and Canada — and most Europe-based players are expected to skip next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie are the core of a team that returns 18 players from the 2022 World Cup roster.

"A World Cup on home soil is the biggest thing that you know we'll probably do in our career," Pulisic said. "It's a special time for this sport in America."

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World Cup test?

In 2016, CONMEBOL partnered with the U.S. Soccer Federation, which was in charge of most of the logistics. This time, CONMEBOL is co-organizing the tournament with CONCACAF, the governing body of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Unlike during the World Cup, the organizers have only short-term access to venues. At Hard Rock, a concert is scheduled for July 6, between the last group stage game and the final, and a new grass surface will be installed.

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At MetLife Stadium, where a semifinal will be played July 9, staff will look at it as a preview for the World Cup final on July 19, 2026. The stadium has a camera system designed by Arecont Vision and managed by Genetec Security Center that was installed before the 2014 Super Bowl and a new system by Axis Communications is being put in place this summer in the seating bowl with 80 8K, 41-megapixel cameras.

"We can see every seat all the time. I think it serves as a good deterrent," said Daniel DeLorenzi, vice president of security and safety services. "We have three drone detection systems. ... Not only can we track the drone, but more importantly, we can track where the operator is."

Reporting by The Associated Press.


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